Scared Straight!

When I was a little girl corporal punishment was very popular. Not that it has died down. But, it has lost its edge in the war on discipline and I’m glad to hear it.

Don’t get me wrong. I would never tell anyone how to discipline their child. Being that I am 40 and have never been pregnant (nor do I have plans on becoming . . .) I do not feel like I have the inside track on how to handle the outrageous behavior of kids. Although, when I’m shopping and see those who throw themselves in the middle of the isle and act like little possessed demons, my first thought is, “If you whip her/his little ass, all of that would stop.” That is normally a response to an action of a child trying to get their way. But, knowing what I know about the “whippings”, “chastisements” and “spankings” of my era, I would never hit a child as a means of discipline. Here’s why.

In 1978 a movie of the week premiered during prime-time programming. That movie was “Scared Straight”. I, along with most of my friends on any other day would have missed that show because our bedtimes were at 8 PM. But, just about everyone I knew was given permission to stay up and watch this movie about life in prison; our parents hoping we would learn something to keep us out of jail. We all talked about it the next day at school.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my running buddies; Carl Brinker. Carl and I hung out often. I was a bit of a tomboy and he, like other little boys, was hoping to be the one closest to me when I grew out of it. Carl and I talked about the show the next day at school. “Man, if I have to go to jail, I’ll run my head into the bars until I die,” was Carl’s commentary. I laughed. I thought, “How silly. Just don’t commit a crime and you won’t go to jail.” I’ve always been analytical. Even in the 7th grade.

Well, Carl did go to jail. Twenty years after that show aired, Carl was incarcerated for charges of drug possession with the intent to sell. He didn’t run his head into the bars; I asked. But one thing he had done was remind me of the discipline he received as a young man.

Carl, along with many of my classmates would get the usual beating from their parents. Not the send you to the hospital and have CPS take you away sort of beating. It was the “Let me give you something to think about” spanking. Carl relayed to me one day that he “preferred” being beaten. I didn’t understand it. My parents never had to whip me because I saw them do it to my sister and brother and knew at a very young age that getting hit was no fun.

Carl’s rationale to his statement was, “Once I get my whipping, I can go back outside and play.” He wasn’t in tune with what he had done.

Now, I can blame this on him being the son of a preacher. I can speculate that there was a deeper emotional issue with Carl. But, after talking with other guys I hung out with, I realized most of them had the same take on this matter. They didn’t mind taking the beating because then they were released and could go back out and continue to have fun; unlike some of us who got lectures and sent to our rooms.

More than five guys I had that discussion with in 1978 wound up in jail later in life. I’m not sure if there is a direct relation to whipping a child and them becoming incarcerated, but it’s worth taking a look at.

Several other guys I know who got lectures went on to do many great things in their lives; marriage, kids, degrees . . . These men also do not hit their children. They talk, incessantly, to them. They were the little boys who were teased for being “punks” and “soft”. They are now the dads who coach the little league teams and go to their kids recitals. Those who wound up in jail are the ones who are known to their kids only as a “baby daddy” and a monthly check; if that.

No, I, a single woman with no children would never tell anyone how to raise/discipline/chastise their child. But, I hope this opens dialog amongst those who still subscribe to the “whipping theory” or “spare the rod spoil the child”. “I love you and you’re going to sit in this room and think about what you did and then we’ll talk about it,” can be just as strengthening to the spirit as a belt to the butt. Remove the stereo, IPod, Xbox, TV, DVD, VCR, telephone, cell phone and designer clothes before sending them to their rooms.

With that said, I can’t end this without making a plea to comedians who glorify beating children. Yes, that’s how they did it in “our day.” That is also the reason when most of us come of age, we move as far away from those neighborhoods and that horror as humanly possible.

One last observation I’ve made as a single woman whose babysat scores of little crumb snatchers. If you start teaching them when they are babies, they retain the knowledge and tend to be easier teenagers. This means you’re going to have to repeat yourself 500 times during the day and have the following dialog everyday for the first 23 years of their life – – “Did you hear what I said? Tell me what I just said. Why did I say that? So, what should you do now?”

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